Wednesday, June 2, 2010

U.S. Airways is still looking for a merger partner

Having been blown off by United Airlines, which it's pretty clear at this point was only making eyes at another carrier in order to make Continental jealous, U.S. Airways is still looking to tie the knot with another legacy carrier.

Call it optimism, which is probably what CEO Doug Parker would prefer. Call it desperation, which is my take. Either way, U.S. Airways President Scott Kirby says it's very likely.

Feel free to laugh. Boasting the most surly staff, the least enthusiastic customer base, and a dysfunctional corporate culture, it's hard to see why U.S. Airways would entice either Delta (which is still digesting its own merger with Northwest) or a post-merger United (which, amazingly, Kirby calls "a high probability").

That leaves American Airlines. I think that if there's going to be a merger for U.S. Airways at all, it will probably be with American, which had long been the largest U.S. airline (and thus, the largest airline in the world) until the Delta merger. After United and Continental merge, American will fall to #3.

But a merger with American isn't an easy deal. To demonstrate that it could bring along its passengers, U.S. Airways would first need to leave the Star Alliance and integrate with American's OneWorld alliance -- far from an easy task.

And would the passengers really follow anyway? I doubt it. American is big enough, with enough flights around the country, that anyone who preferred OneWorld over the Star Alliance would already have made the switch.

I do see U.S. Airways departing the scene, mind you. But my vision is more of a yard sale.

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